Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been booming for over two years now, and yet it seems unlikely for the book to see its echo die anytime soon. Labeled as a thriller/mystery novel, it surprisingly does not have lots of thrills this kind of book needs and, unfortunately, the mystery encasing it only lasts for the first part of the story and then dissolves mysteriously into thin air. So much like Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, this Flynn’s third work of such fiction focuses more on its drama and the psychologically disturbing characters employed to twist its already winding narrative. It does have a mind-blowing idea of mixing marriage and murder, in a very unusual yet very real way, but calling it pure crime fiction wouldn’t feel comfortably right.
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife, Amy, is gone and no one knows where she is or where she goes. There is no clue or trace left to lead to her whereabouts, but there are some horrible, convincing evidences of violence and aggressive attacks on Amy before she is, presumably, being kidnapped. The police wastes no time in getting up and investigating the case, throwing suspicion at Nick in the process. Nick insists he is innocent, unfortunately all the evidences found say the opposite, and he doesn’t have an appropriate alibi to prove that he doesn’t kidnap or kill his own wife. Moreover, his negligent demeanor undeniably mirrors the state of guilty he must be in, showing that he doesn’t care, and is even happy, if his wife is gone missing or dead. With more and more proofs, the police finally arrests him and gets him awaiting for trial. But then, something strange happens and the trial has to be canceled. Nick cannot feel relieved, though, because he must be forever glued to his guilty status and will never have the free life he fervently desires.
I would say that the two main characters here are the main attraction of the book. Amy and Nick are not, basically, normal characters by fiction standard. Throughout the story, the reader can see that Amy is everything that Nick is not. Even the subtle description of Nick being an average man while Amy is an above-the-average woman leads us to the fact that Amy is more than Nick in everything: smarter, brighter, richer, and frighteningly, more hateful, more vengeful, more selfish, and more insane. It turns Nick’s insecurity even lower, rendering him suffering a crisis of confidence not only in front of his wife, but also within himself. It is no wonder then that Nick feels like he gets stabbed right in his male pride and dignity and eventually, when it’s already too much for him, runs to some average young woman who can match him in everything.
So this is where the problem lies, the spot that, in my opinion, gets the brightest light so the reader can see it crystal clear. The conflict between men and women is what actually drives the whole narrative—the wrecked marriage, the cheat, the murder, the mind-boggling scheme. Men have a certain standard of how women, physically and characteristically, should be. And when women fail to meet that standard, or marvelously go beyond that standard, they will not have it.
“[And] the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even
pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be
the woman a man wants them to be.”
—Amy Elliot Dunne
This book, with all its idea, characters, and storyline, vehemently tries to fight against the pattern of fairy tales. I noticed that at some point Amy really mocked how women usually behave in romantic fiction books through her voiced narration, making me raise my eyebrows both in agreement and tame disapproval. However, on the other hand, Flynn also seems to want to create criteria for perfect men through Amy’s demand on Nick to be a “loving, doting, caring, understanding, faithful” husband. Alas, eventually, all we are forced to see is how people are trying so hard to be the ideal, and how exhausting and brain-consuming it can be.
Divided into three parts, Gone Girl is told from two different, changing points of view. The story unfolds in a very deceptive, frustrating, overlong narrative, with all its misleading clues and distractingly convincing evidences. Well, at least for the first part of it, for then the reader is entertained with a sucking marital drama and psycho characters. Flynn deftly leads the reader through her puzzling, twisting initial plot without so much as a little clue until we arrive just at the first page of part two. Such a shame, the most mysterious part of the book is also the most boring one. It was really a struggle to finish it. It wasn’t until the end of it that I could completely enjoy the whole storyline, albeit I had to lose the exciting thrill, for all of the mysteries seemed to have been answered already. Starting the second part, every strange description, every enigmatic sentence, seems to dissolve itself and leaves the reader able to guess what they will find next. However, though all the excitement seems to end there, finally seeing everything through Amy’s honest lens and looking at what truly inside her head is are very much tensely enjoyable. But there was something that bothered me quite much: why did Nick have to realize his wife’s way of thinking all of a sudden after the first half through the book? After all those clues? Why the suddenness? The plunging ending Flynn sets to conclude the entire story also left me unsatisfied. I almost hoped she would have prolonged the third instead of the first part. To me, it’s just a little too fast.
All in all, I must say that Gone Girl is a fabulous psychological crime drama, but not a proper thriller/mystery novel. I adore the magnificent idea it has, but I’m left unenthralled, even now, by its overly long plot and awkwardly executed ending.